When I heard the words come out of the surgeon’s mouth, they were muffled – like she was talking to me, and I was underwater.
“You’ve got air loose in your abdomen, and we can’t figure out where it’s coming from. We’ve got to get you in to surgery as soon as we can.”
I’ve heard people discuss out of body experiences, but had never had one myself. In that moment, I could actually see myself. I know that sounds like a bit much. I can’t explain it any better than that. This was the first time I had ever been faced with my own mortality (it was the first time I had ever needed surgery!). I was absolutely terrified. I had never contemplated not waking up tomorrow. My family was terrified – apparently the doctor told them I might not make it. They didn’t tell me that. They didn’t have to. I could see it in their faces. I could hear it in the way they talked to me. I couldn’t believe how sudden it was. Two days earlier I was at the gym, doing a 3 person partner WOD with Jake and Earl. I imagine the surprise is similar to having a heart attack, or another unexpected health scare. The difference is, if you’re lucky enough to make it through a heart attack, you’re already through. I wasn’t there yet. I was stuck in the hospital, waiting for a surgery that I didn’t expect, hoping that I would make it to tomorrow. Stuck thinking about all the life that I hadn’t lived. Forced to face the inevitability of the end of the road.
When I woke up on the other side, I realized I had just been given this incredible gift – the rest of my life – and I didn’t want to take that for granted.
Here was my new reality:
– I was frail. I weighed 171 pounds – down 20 pounds in a week.
– I couldn’t really move – you don’t realize how much you use your core until you have a 9 inch incision down your entire stomach.
– I was happy to be alive
We’ve all heard people say it, and an experience like that really does force you take stock of, and revaluate your entire life. One thing was very clear – moving forward, I was going to take every step that I could to ensure that my health would not be negatively impacted by the effort I put in. I could control what I eat, and how much time I dedicate to taking care of myself.
The gym had already become one of my favorite places. I remember going to visit before I was cleared to workout again. I remember sitting on the couch at home, literally counting down the days until June 1st (barring any setbacks, that was the day when I’d be cleared to workout). The first few weeks back were challenging. It taught me that progress takes time. Forget setting PRs, my body was nowhere close to that. I learned to stop expecting things to go a certain way, and appreciate what I could do that day. I was back at the gym 6 weeks after almost dying! It gave me the opportunity to dive in to quality of movement, and learn how to do things right. I was also trying to gain back a ton of weight, so I was eating whatever I wanted to! I would order pancakes every time I went out to breakfast. Every. Single. Time. That is not sustainable and I don’t do that anymore, but that was great!
“Ok Rob, I’ve heard this story one hundred times. Why are you talking about it again?”
The internet, and social media especially, has created this fake virtual life. It’s where everything is perfect, and everyone is an expert who has the *exact* way to lose weight fast mapped out for you! Or they’ve got a supplement regimen and a program to get you to crush it in the weight room! It’s a lot of garbage, and average people can end up feeling very bad about themselves as a result. In the real world, reaching your goals (whatever they are), takes time, focus, and effort. Nothing worth doing is easy.
Although, I’m pretty sure I found the only true way to lose 20 pounds in a week! Guaranteed!
I had to work to gain that weight back. It didn’t take three months. It took three years. Three years of visualizing my goal, and making it happen. That’s three years of tinkering with nutrition – i.e. finding ways to make sure I can still go have a couple of beers when I want to and not feel bad about it. Now, weighing my food and counting macros is pretty much second nature. It works for me. I’ve weighed 200 pounds for about 6 months now. That didn’t happen all at once. It won’t for you either, and that’s ok!
Too often, we have a tendency to try to take everything on at once (I am absolutely guilty of this). This is the quickest way to burn out. I believe we need to focus our efforts in achieving sustainable fitness. This translates directly to diet, too. Whether you want to gain or lose weight, start with easy stuff – focus on the quality of your food, drink more water, and find ways to add more protein to your diet. You can figure out the rest as you move forward (or hire a Dietician!).
We’ll be practicing sustainable fitness in the gym, too. CrossFit is often described as ‘functional fitness,’ and that goes hand in hand with the idea of building your body in a sustainable way – so we’re still functionally fit at 85 years old. This means incremental gains over time, with progress that is often immeasurable on a daily or weekly basis.
My story isn’t unique. I am not special. While we may not have the same goals, we are all capable of changing our bodies and living healthier lives. Make the commitment to change, and I’ll do everything in my power to help you get there. You’re going to get 110% from me. We’re gonna work hard, work smart, and have fun along the way. Trust the process. Above all, if you can find something you love, and can commit to, I promise you’ll find the progress you’re searching for.